Myth, Ritual, and Symbol

December 4, 2020

ANTHR 3420

Day/time: MW 9:40am - 10:55am

Mode: In person

Instructor: Andrew Willford

This course approaches the study of religion, symbols, and myth from an anthropological perspective. The centrality and universality of religion and myth-making in social and symbolic life has been fundamental in the development of cultural theory. Our aim is to understand with this is so. We begin by examining the classic theories of religion in the works of Durkheim, Marx, Weber, Mauss, and Freud, among others, followed by an exploration of how these theories have been influential in anthropological studies of symbolism, cosmology, ritual, selfhood, myth, sorcery, witchcraft, and pilgrimage. We conclude by examining the apparent persistence, revival and transformation of religious and magical beliefs and practices within modern, modernizing, and postcolonial states. We ask whether an increasing politicization and globalization of religious ideology through technological mediation poses significant challenges to the anthropological analysis of religion. In so doing, we also try to understand better the human experience of and identification with the spiritual, mythical, and religious in the contemporary moment. This, in turn, leads us to investigate the inherent volatility of such identifications and experiences within the larger national and global framework of cultural politics.

Klarman Hall at sunset